015 – Counselling Young People – Scripts, Injunctions and Drivers – Appropriate Referrals – Progression

015 – Counselling Young People – Scripts, Injunctions and Drivers – Appropriate Referrals – Progression

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In episode 15 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Rory Lees-Oakes and Ken Kelly cover the topic of counselling children and adolescents. ‘Theory with Rory’ takes a look at the transactional-analysis (TA) theory of scripts, injunctions and drivers, and Ken speaks about making appropriate referrals in counselling. The presenters end with a debate on progression after qualification.

Counselling young people

Rory and Ken share some key tips on working with children and adolescents:

  • Do not attempt to counsel young people before you have enough experience; this is a specialism that requires much experience and additional training after qualification.
  • Make sure you have a good knowledge of attachment theory, as young people may have difficulties with relationships.
  • Ensure the young person is ready for counselling, and has come because they want to, rather than because a teacher or someone else has sent them.
  • Make sure you use language that the young client understands.
  • Take into account the differences between how adults and young people experience the world.

Rory refers to Gillick competence and the Fraser guidelines, which support professionals assessing whether a child is mature enough to make decisions. The aim is to help us balance children’s rights and wishes with our responsibility to keep children safe from harm.

Scripts, Injunctions and Drivers

Rory provides a brief overview of these concepts from TA (developed by Eric Berne), an in-depth modality in which how our childhood experience affects us as adults is key:

  • Life scripts come from how we view the world as children, building a story for ourselves to carry through life.
  • Injunctions are messages we are given by our parents and other significant figures in our childhood, which then influence how we live our lives.
  • Drivers represent a type of survival mechanisms – mental strategies that we develop to counterbalance injunctions.

Rory illustrates the concept of life scripts using two real-life examples of careers chosen by people with particular childhood experiences. To explain injunctions and drivers, he uses the analogy of someone in deep water. Injunctions are lead weights tied around their ankles, pulling them downwards, while drivers come in the form of helium-filled balloons to which they are clinging; these counteract the downward pull by supporting them upwards.

Rory reports that TA therapists often first tackle the injunctions. Think about what messages you were given when you were young; are you building your life on these?

Appropriate referrals in counselling

As a counsellor, you will sometimes need to refer clients to other services. Ken speaks about what we might look for in a client that would suggest referral is necessary, and how to make a referral. He also looks at inward referrals – that is, receiving clients from other agencies.

In general, it is better to refer a client as soon as possible, before the therapeutic relationship is established. There are various situations in which referral may be the best option:

  • As counselling is not an emergency service, it is important to signpost clients with really urgent problems to ‘blue-light’ services, such as the Samaritans. This could happen without even meeting the client, for example over the telephone (either person-to-person or through a message on your answerphone).
  • Another occasion when referral is called for is when a potential client wants appointments at times when you are unavailable – or perhaps you are already booked up.
  • Sometimes, we may not be the right person to counsel a particular client. For example, a client may have a preference for a male or female counsellor; it is important that the client is free to express such preferences.
  • When you are working with an agency where the number of sessions is strictly limited, a client with complex issues may be better referred to a counsellor who will be able to continue for longer.
  • The client may not feel you are a good fit for them, and may wish to change to a different counsellor.
  • Your modality of therapy – or you as an individual, given your personal history – may not be a good fit with the client’s presenting issue.

Ken goes on to look at respectful ways to make referrals, stressing the importance of ensuring you know about the other services available, and of building a good network (which also may bring inward referrals).

Progression after Qualification

What happens when you graduate as a qualified counsellor? Are there work opportunities out there? Ken and Rory debate these questions, and also look at further training. Rory advises ‘going where your clients take you’, pursuing educational and reading opportunities that will help you help your clients. 

When you qualify, it is important to inform your placement and your professional body, and to ensure you have the right insurance. The idea that there is no paid work for counsellors is a myth: think imaginatively, do your research and persevere. Ken and Rory offer specific advice for those thinking of going into private practice.

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